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#1 Ian

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 09:33 PM

I just finished watching Ponyo. While it is as visually arresting as any film from Ghibli, somehow the pieces just didn't add up and I thought it was Miyazaki's weakest film since Porco Rosso. My main gripe with the film is that the story and character development is so threadbare it's almost nonexistent. I've heard people compare it to My Neighbor Totoro. I suppose they are similar films as they are films designed to appeal to a younger audience than usual for Ghibli and have a more episodic feel...but the spiritual growth those two little girls go through in Totoro makes that film a masterpiece. Ponyo just felt empty and messy in comparison.

I also thought that in spite of how beautiful the imagery in Ponyo was (the design work on the sea life in the film is breathtaking), it didn't capture that almost mystical energy that Miyazaki and the Ghibli animators seem to be able to infuse into their greatest works.

Anyone have thoughts on Ponyo, Miyazaki or Ghibli in general?

#2 littlefuzzy

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 09:56 AM

I am a big fan of Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli as well.

I have liked their works for the past 15-20 years... I know I had Kiki's Delivery Service on Laserdisc, and I got my player in 1990, but I'm not sure how soon after that I got the disc. I had seen some stuff at anime conventions around that time. I know I was already a fan when Princess Mononoke came out, My mother and I saw it in the theaters. My mother enjoyed watching all of the Ghibli films with me, although it was hard for her to read the subtitles, so we watched them all dubbed. Thankfully, Disney did pretty good on most of the dubs.

Castle in the Sky - It's been a while since I've seen it, I enjoyed it but it's not my favorite.

The Castle of Cagliostro - Miyazaki really brings Lupin the IIIrd to life. Although it's a bit out of Miyazaki's normal genre, it's one of my favorite Lupin the IIIrd movies.

Howl's Moving Castle - I was familiar with the book before I saw the movie, and he did a great job translating it to the screen. We saw this in the theater, as well as on DVD.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Like I said, I started with this one on Laserdisc, so it's one that I have seen quite often. It is definitely in my top 3 Ghibli films.

My Neighbor Totoro - I'd probably have to say this is another of the top 3 Ghiblis for me.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Very good, although I think I prefer the more humorous family films.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - I thoroughly enjoyed this, and didn't notice the lach of character development or story that Ian pointed out. My mother didn't get to see this one, but I saw it in the theater with a friend.

Porco Rosso - This one was fun, although it's been a while since I've seen it.

Princess Mononoke - The first Miyazaki film I saw in the theater, and I think I got it on DVD for Christmas 2000, so I've watched it quite a bit. Like I said on Nausicaä, though, I probably prefer a bit more humor.

Sherlock Hound - This TV series is quite fun, I am still missing a couple of the OOP DVDs for it. I'm not sure, but I think I saw it online at www.hulu.com or www.crunchyroll.com (licensed streaming sites, not pirated stuff.) As you can probably tell from the title, this is an adaption of Sherlock Holmes, using anthropomorphic animals (like some of the Disney stuff - Rescue Rangers, Great Mouse Detective, Robin Hood, etc.)

Spirited Away - The final Top 3 Ghibli for me, I'm not sure if I could say which of the 3 is my favorite. We saw this in the theater, as well.

I always consider Panda! Go Panda! to be Miyazaki's work, even though it's directed by Isao Takahata. Miyazaki created the characters/concept and wrote the screenplay, and is credited on IMDB as "key animator, layout artist, and screen design." Even though this is a couple of short animations from the early 70s, and it's aimed at little kids, I absolutely love this. I've given them both a 10 at IMDB, and I don't hand those out like candy on Halloween.

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#3 Ian

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 11:13 AM

I think my slight disappointment with Ponyo is for similar reasons as to why Castle in the Sky isn't my favorite Ghibli. The majority of Castle in the Sky is just a long extended chase sequence. There is a 10 minute stretch on the floating city of Laputa that is excellent but overall in spite of some interesting ideas and visuals, the film felt slight. Ponyo is sort of the same way. The film seems to have three arcs : Ponyo chasing (returning) to the boy, Ponyo's father chasing Ponyo, Ponyo and the boy racing to find the mother at the senior's centre. The film is at time stunning to look at and some of the ideas in the visual language I've never seen before on film or in any other medium but the central story is a little too basic and repetitive. I just wasn't immersed enough in the film. I'll revisit the film at a later date to see if I have a better viewing experience.

I did like it, I just was expecting more. Miyazaki's last three films, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle has been one masterpiece after another. The bar was set pretty high, IMO. The only Ghibli film I did not care for at all was The Cat Returns, which I thought was a very poor film. I heard Tales from the Earthsea is suppose to be a pretty big dog too.

I had a fair bit of trouble getting into My Neighbor the Yamadas. It's an almost impenetrable film to me. It's so distinctly Japanese and the sketch/vignette style of the film probably makes it even more difficult for someone who's grown up in the west to understand it's nuances. It's not a movie I like but since that's a result of me not knowing how to approach the work, I can't state any real opinion about the film/

#4 Izo

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 02:04 PM

I love Hayao Miyazaki (and Isao Takahata), and I thought Ponyo was one of his best films. Then again, perhaps my opinion can be thrown out since Porco Rosso is my favorite of his films and I'm probably the only one who feels that way.

#5 Ian

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 07:37 PM

I would be interesting to hear you write about Porco Rosso. I have noticed it's generally considered to be the weakest of Miyazaki's output. (Which isn't saying much, as he's never made a bad movie.) I'm curious what you love about the film?

#6 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 10:33 AM

I am actually a fan of both The Cat Returns and My Neighbors the Yamadas. With The Cat Returns I found it such a fascinating world and a wonderful viewing experience. I liked Muta and The Baron and the whole Cat Kingdom. Yuji Nomi's musical score is quite good and I found myself more enthralled in this movie then the first Whisper of the Heart. Of course I'm a cat fan so that might have helped. With My Neighbors the Yamadas I found the vignettes quick poignant for any family. There are some references that I had to look up like Kamen Rider. I was surprised that I liked the English dub with James Belushi as the head of the family.

The only Studio Ghibli film I did not like was Pom Poko. Besides the overabundence of animal testicles, I just don't like seeing animals hit by cars mixed with its sledge hammer approach to ecological concerns (a valid issue in Japan though).

I liked Porco Rosso, but it is probably the one I think of the least with Miyazaki Hayao. I think it is probably the one I need to revisit this year (most of the others I've seen at least twice except Lupin :o). I would be interested in hearing everybodys pros and cons of this film.
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#7 Pair

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 12:40 PM

So I have a question for you all. What would be a good introductory film?

It could be for any reason, but please definitely include the reason. Such as: (1) "X is his most inaccessible/weirdest/least appreciated work so if you like this, you'll like the rest," (2) "X is a classic example of his work," or whatever.

I've been back and forth on the whole Ghibli thing, I have... eh, reservations. I've been considering dipping into it for my kids' sake, but please note: by 'introductory' I don't mean what one would consider introductory for your typical child. My son is very into Kurosawa and my daughter loves the Quays.
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#8 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 12:52 PM

Either one of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro as they exemplify what I feel he stands for as a director. Beautiful animation, enchanted worlds, unique characters. Almost any fan of Miyazaki will give you a different film as their favorite (which like Kurosawa he has many great movies), but mine is Spirited Away (this is also one of the largest grossing films in Japanese history; it won Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and many, many awards). Here we have an enchanted world within a world. While it has had many great reviews from critics, I do personally feel with your personal aesthetic you will like it. No you are not a young girl as the protagonist is (well you could be, but you have posted pictures of yourself), but there is so much unique to the world of Miyazaki. Some of it is taken from Japanese tales of yore with deformed creatures, no faces etc... but I just find myself fascinated with the detail in his work as well as the situations.

This won't apply to you, but I did recommend this to a coworker a while back and it frightened his kid. Unfortunately he took the position that since she didn't like it he didn't (I did tell him it was for him and not small children).
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#9 littlefuzzy

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 01:41 PM

Kiki's Delivery Service is pretty accessible, with a great English cast as well (if you don't like the subs.)

My Neighbor Totoro has caused a bit of minor controversy (or trollish threads at IMDB) among ignorant rubes... "OMG, the father and daughters are bathing together!!! He's a pervert!!" It is common in Japan for families to bathe together, children of the opposite sex from their parent usually stop around puberty, while children of the same sex as the parent continue on into adulthood. It is seen as a bonding time.

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#10 Ian

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:04 PM

Depends on how old your kids are. Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke do have some adult themes and the plot twists and world building in these movies are probably too complex for young children. (There is a lot of information one has to proccess to really be immersed in these films, I could see them confusing some youngsters)

Spirited Away is by far the best film in the roster. If your kids are really young I would try them on My Neighbor Totoro first.

#11 Izo

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:59 PM

I would be interesting to hear you write about Porco Rosso. I have noticed it's generally considered to be the weakest of Miyazaki's output. (Which isn't saying much, as he's never made a bad movie.) I'm curious what you love about the film?


My love of Porco Rosso is pretty irrational, admittedly. I don't think it's his best film, Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle probably deserves that honor for their animation alone, but for whatever reason I respond very strongly to it. I love the title character and his little-girl sidekick later in the film, and I really love the love story between the bar owner and Porco. The movie just makes me smile, start to finish, which isn't something I can say about any of his other films, though I love almost all of them at least to some degree.


Regarding other Ghibli films, I did enjoy The Cat Returns, about as much as Whisper of the Heart. I don't own and don't plan on owning either one, but I think they are both pretty good. Pom Poko, I think, is great fun, scrotums and all. Even if you don't care for the film, I think that the Monster Parade sequence is among the greatest sequences that Studio Ghibli has in any of its films.

#12 Pair

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 03:27 PM

Just saw Ponyo with my kids and my brother. I only decided to start with it because of convenience, it was at the Redbox down the street.

It wasn't awful, but wasn't really too great either. Visually it was stunning (especially the very beginning!), but the story felt terribly flat.

A mysterious sea creature wants to be a human girl out of love for a human boy, but this evil looking guy who keeps her in captivity doesn't want her to. (
Spoiler
) There's a tsunami,
Spoiler
. Then we make our way to find mom and some old people. Okay, adventure time right?
Spoiler
. We get to the end, and the climax?
Spoiler
.

For me, the story lacked conflict, motivation (I found the love a little uninspired), and a climax of any kind. It was just a faint story that putted along nicely until it ended. Maybe it was intended as slice-of-life? It didn't feel like it, but that's the closest narrative I can think of. A good one for maybe a preschooler? It shouldn't be offensive to ANYBODY, that's for damn sure.

My daughter didn't directly say it, but talking with her I gathered that her impression was that it was a vanilla, less exciting and music-less Little Mermaid.

Without the awesome animation and a couple cute little jokes (usually slapstick in nature) I don't think this would have held my or my kids' attention as long as it did.

If I had to rate it, I'd give it a "meh..." out of five.

Based on recommendations here (thank you all for that help) and after looking at some trailers with my kids we've decided to put Spirited Away and Totoro at the tops of their list.
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#13 Izo

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 06:43 PM

I'd argue that if you didn't like Ponyo, you probably won't care much for My Neighbor Totoro, either. The plots are both villain-less and virtually conflictless.

#14 Pair

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:45 PM

^I can definitely hang with an alternative plot style, I don't really need a traditional narrative, please don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those.

I just felt throughout the story that it was going to be a traditional narrative, and then didn't go through it all the way. All the familiar elements kept getting set up, but then nothing happened with them. Maybe I saw the familiar elements where there were none, and it's my fault, but I can't help how I react to stories. :( Maybe I just didn't get it :) (I despise that phrase).

More than that, my complaint lies in motivation. I just didn't catch who these characters really were, what it is they wanted. Ponyo wanted to be with Sosuke. She was. The end? Okay, but that really could have just been a short film.
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#15 Izo

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 06:49 PM

Sad news and glad news.

Miyazaki's got another film in the can!

#16 Ian

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:51 PM

You hear about how these Ghibli films constantly break the box office records in Japan, apparently Ponyo which had a budget of $36 million grossed over $100 million in Japan alone. Why are they teetering on the edge of bankruptcy? Makes no sense.

It would be a tragedy if Ghibli shut down. People talk about Pixar having the same high standards of quality but the last couple Pixar films certainly have me suspicious of that claim.

I pretty much think the quality of feature animation has went down the toilet in the CGI age. Ghibli is one of the few companies putting out anything worth watching.

#17 Izo

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 09:01 PM

How many non-Miyazaki films does Ghibli make? I know of a few, but I'm curious on what the actual output is versus what's released stateside.


It would be a tragedy if Ghibli shut down. People talk about Pixar having the same high standards of quality but the last couple Pixar films certainly have me suspicious of that claim.


Up and Toy Story 3?

#18 littlefuzzy

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 01:42 PM

How many non-Miyazaki films does Ghibli make? I know of a few, but I'm curious on what the actual output is versus what's released stateside.

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#19 Izo

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 01:19 PM

There was a lengthy and hilarious My Neighbor Totoro homage/parody on last week's "South Park". Mix in a bit of H.P. Lovecraft and it's pretty much a joke that was written specifically for me, I think.

#20 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:41 PM

I went into Ponyo a bit trepidatious because of some of the comments here and from friends who felt this was one of the weaker films in Miyazaki's oeuvre -- though a weaker film from him, in my opinion, is still a good film. I understand the issues Pair had with the film and thought about them when it was happening too. I kept thinking that these huge prehistoric fish would try to gobble up the feet dangling above their heads (and of course was thinking how many were possibly killed by the floods). I do not think it mattered as much to me because I knew this was behaving more as a kids film than others by Miyazaki, but I did sense a certain lacking of drama.

I was not so sure about Liam Neeson's voice matching the animated character Fujimoto as well (not that the Japanese voice matched the character either). I think some fans of Hayao are disappointed because sometimes this film comes off as more straightforward than magical though you see Hayao's touch throughout the film especially in the environmental message, the characters Fujimoto, his wife(?) and of course Ponyo (though I'm not sure why people think she is a goldfish, other than the older lady who definitely sees a head).

However, the animation is quite beautiful and several scenes are magnificent. I loved the scene where Ponyo is running alongside the waves to keep up with Lisa and Sosuke.
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

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